School & District Management What the Research Says

Concept Words Key to Comprehension

By Sarah D. Sparks — September 03, 2019 1 min read

Students need to reach a “knowledge threshold” to boost reading comprehension in a new subject, and some academic keywords are more critical than others, finds a new study in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers from the Educational Testing Service and the University of Memphis gave more than 3,500 high school students a test of ecology knowledge before a separate reading comprehension test on an ecology topic. Researchers correctly predicted the majority of students who would score poorly in reading comprehension based on their understanding of the most commonly used subject-matter words, such as ecosystem and habitat. They recommended teachers take a quick measure of students’ background knowledge to help distinguish knowledge from decoding or other reading problems.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 04, 2019 edition of Education Week as Concept Words Key to Comprehension

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